CF Polo Park is probably on your Winnipeg-do list this holiday season.
When visiting Winnipeg’s largest mall, take some time to discover the impressive local dining scene.
Just steps from CF Polo Park you’ll find many unique, locally owned gems that are a gift to the area–even if they don’t offer unlimited breadsticks.
Here’s just a few to put on your shopping list:
Preservation Hall - 655 Empress Street
One of the city’s best French restaurants is located just east of the mall in that separate shopping island that contains Chapters and The Home Depot. This hidden gem amongst the large chains is helmed by culinary power couple chef Tristan Foucault and GM Melanie Foucault. Foucault started the charcuterie program at Peasant Cookery after running a number of kitchens for WOW Hospitality, and he continues to do so with delicious and eye-catching boards featuring locally raised heritage pork that he cures onsite.
Classics like steak frites and the Preservation burger are done proper–the fries are perfection; you can snap them they are so crisp while still fluffy in the middle–and given the calibre in the kitchen, Preservation Hall is a great spot to indulge in duck, be it a seared breast with morello cherry glaze, or confit on a bed of cassoulet.
Vegetarians will be equally happy with the From the Garden section of the menu with its comforting, wintery dishes like beet gnocchi with horseradish cream. It looks like a chain from the outside, which means the room is big, while the service remains warm and attentive. Don’t skip on the Parisian dessert menu. On Wednesday they offer buck-a-shuck along with bubbles at 25 per cent off. A gem we tell you, a gem. Here's the website.
One Great City Brewing - 1596 Ness Ave
One Great City makes great beers, but they could serve glasses of watered-down mayonnaise and we’d continue to come in for how well the kitchen addresses bird—be it that luscious Chicken Seoul Food (a pulled gochujang-kicked chicken burger featuring togarashi ranch, pickles and kimchi and iceberg for crunch, and Sriracha aioli to make it that much creamier), or the crispy chicken and waffles.
The massive sandwich menu rocks, the thick Detroit-style pizzas they sling after 5 p.m. are crowd-pleasers (and fillers) and pub standards like butter chicken and fish and chips are also worth the visit.
As to beer, we appreciate the way One Great City incorporates the city’s history and quirkiness into the names of its releases. From the regular pours, we’re big Queen’s Best Bitter fans and the milk stout is great, too. The room is almost always lively, but it's spacious and has a soothing blue and grey colour palette. The team also does a nice job with social media. What’s not to love?
Les Saj - 1038 St James St
Many fantastic Middle Eastern spots have opened in the last few years in Winnipeg, with Les Saj right near the top of the crop. Part of the joy here is watching the super thin saj bread made right before your eyes on the saj (a dome-shaped metal pan). From there, you can get these filled then rolled with everything from simple za’tar and labneh, to beef and lamb shawarma (cut fresh from the spit), lamb kebab and shish tawook.
All menu items are halal and you can’t miss its strip mall location just north of CF Polo Park on the east side because the façade is plastered in pictures (the spit is bigger than a child!). This is what you need to do when you’re competing for bellies in this bustling area.
Damecca Lounge - 305 Madison Street
Literally across the street from the west side of the mall, Damecca slid onto the scene in 2021 with a tidy menu of globally approved dishes. There's something for all tastes–from handmade pasta (be it pappardelle or gnocchi) with seasonal cream sauces; traditional pho; sushi towers and ramen; a cheese bomb burger; and a steak frites that comes with a brandy red wine sauce and a bonito kale Caesar. Shopping late? Catch a DJ set and take advantage of the cocktail deals.
Yafa Café - 1785 Portage Avenue
Yafa owner Rana Abdulla has created a vibrant, bright and beautiful communal hub in St. James with her Palestinian café that specializes in Arabic street food. Most of the recipes have been handed down generations through her family and, as you’ll note on the menu, many are gluten-free and vegetarian. We personally love how they put fries right in the shawarma like you’d get throughout Europe and the Middle East.
Located right on Portage Avenue, Yafa is just a two-block walk from the mall. Leave room for coffee or tea (the selection is impressive) and pastries.
Copper Chimney - 305 Madison Street
This spacious and usually quite busy locally owned spot is known for its friendly staff and North Indian dishes—although we’ll also point you to the goat or veggie thali, both of which are great bang for your buck. Vegetarians will love their bhindi masala, carb lovers will fall for their selection of tandoor-baked flat breads, and Copper is famed for their biryani—of which they offer six different versions. It’s also a fun place to take the kids, as so many dishes are served on sizzling platters (who doesn’t love some sizzle?).
Located at Madison and Ness, the restaurant is just across the street from the mall. Here's the website.
Rae & Jerry’s Steakhouse – 1405 Portage Avenue
The classic, doing it right since 1957. Rae & Jerry's is a favourite for locals, visiting film crews, and anyone who wants to feel like they are visiting a Tarantino film set. The red vinyl chairs are for dirty martinis with extra olives, and the beef sides still include the option of a tin of chilled tomato soup, along with old school sides like onion salad and sliced tomatoes. The prime rib is where it’s at for dinner in the dining room, while the choice beef burger at lunch in the lounge is a veteran move. Pick yourself up a red clicky pen while you are at it.
d + a café in EQ3 – EQ3 store, CF Polo Park
Finally, you don’t even need to leave the mall to experience local fare with flair. Located within the flagship EQ3 store in CF Polo Park is chef Mandel Hitzer and sommelier Daniel King’s elegant d + a café, where the brunch dishes are borderline exquisite, and the touches–namely the pitch-perfect coffee drinks and the ingredients throughout the tight menu–are all there. The room is a showpiece for EQ3, which means it's magazine-ready, offering a nice respite from the mall crowds. Even if you aren’t shopping, it’s worth the trip.